How to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

How to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic_Suitcase and Chardonnay

By Renate Engelbrecht

Thursday, Feb 18

It’s no secret that there is a link between obesity and serious COVID-19 infection. It’s also no secret that more than half of South Africa’s adults are overweight or obese, which is a scary statistic considering the current pandemic we’re facing. Although it has been difficult to eat and stay healthy during the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s still important to look after yourself. Here is one way in which you can transition into a healthier lifestyle easily.

Research dating back to 2016 indicates that South Africa’s population aged 15 years and more are not as healthy as one would wish. In fact, the World Health Organisation states that 53.8% of South Africa’s adults are either overweight or obese. Dr. Gert du Toit, a surgeon who practices at the multi-disciplinary metabolic centre at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, says that these are scary statistics, particularly as many international studies show a link between obesity and serious COVID-19 infection. (The Netcare St Augustine Hospital has been accredited by the South African Society for Surgery, Obesity and Metabolism as a Centre of Excellence for Metabolic Medicine).

Luckily, there are ways to turn the statistics around. It starts with the individual, though and if you don’t make the choice to change, nothing will change.

Put your money where the mushrooms are

One of the most delicious and healthy options to change your lifestyle and your eating habits, is mushrooms. The great thing about mushrooms is that it is available throughout the year and rather affordable, cultivated by South African mushroom farmers.

Why mushrooms?

Neither fruit, nor vegetable, mushrooms are low in calories and don’t contain fat or cholesterol. They are, however, loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients ideal for losing weight and eating your way into a healthier lifestyle. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in mushrooms are said to also prevent plaque from building up along artery walls, which subsequently reduces blood vessel hardening and assists in lowering high blood pressure.

Swap meat for mushrooms

It’s easy to reduce your reliance on meat when you have umami-rich mushrooms to replace it with. Mushrooms add a unique, savory flavour to a dish and brings various health benefits with it. This includes beta-glucans that have been proven to boost and stimulate the immune system, which evidently allows your body to produce more natural killer cells – cells that are essential in fighting toxins, age-related diseases, tumors and cancer.

Make a Mushroom Tapenade

Image cred: SAMFA

There are so many ways in which you can include mushrooms in your diet and this Mushroom Tapenade recipe, developed by SAMFA (The South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association) is one of my favourites:

Mushroom Tapenade

Makes 2 medium-sized jars


500g mixed mushrooms (half portabellini, half white button)

4 garlic cloves, finely diced

Olive oil for frying

2 Tbsp capers, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

100g kalamata olives, pitted

50g walnuts or pecans

3 anchovy fillets

1 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 handful Italian parsley, stalks removed

Toasted sourdough for serving


Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan and fry the mushrooms until they have released all of their water and begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook until golden.

Add the cooked mushrooms, along with the rest of the ingredients, into the bowl of a food processor.

Mix and pulse until you get a fine texture, but don’t over-mix it into a paste.

Serve the Tapenade with slices of hot sourdough toast and an extra sprinkle of chilli flakes.

Mushrooms are obviously not the only way in which you can stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, but it’s a great (and delicious) way to kick off the transition phase.

Follow the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association’s Instagram page for more healthy, mushroom-inspired ideas and recipes.


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  1. Kedgeree Recipe: Winter (and a Roasted Mushroom Kedgeree) is coming - […] READ: Benefits of mushrooms […]

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